AKRON, Ohio - Four years of college tuition, without paying a penny, may sound too good to be true. But The University of Akron hopes to provide free rides to the best and brightest students in the Akron Public School District as early as this fall.
The scholarships are contingent on House Bill 381, proposed by State Rep. Lynn Slaby, garnering support and getting approval by Ohio legislators. On Wednesday, University of Akron President Luis Proenza, and APS Superintendent David James, testified before the House Education Committee.
The proposal would require a public school district that is selling a building to offer that property first to a state university. In exchange for an accepted offer, a university would provide in-kind services or educational programs valued at the appraised market value of the property.
UA is seeking the Central-Hower High School, which was closed in 2006. The building is on UA's campus, but it's owned by Akron Public Schools. Officials at the university estimate the building is worth between $8 million and $10 million.
If the legislation is approved, the University of Akron would launch Innovation Generation Scholarship. Graduates of APS would be eligible for free, full tuition if they have a 3.0 GPA and a score of 27 on their ACT, a 3.5 GPA and a score of 24 on their ACT, or rank in the top 10 percent of their class and have a score of 26 on their ACT. Students would have to maintain a 3.0 GPA in college for the free tuition to continue.
UA officials estimate 105 students are currently eligible for the scholarships.
Proenza said the program would result in a more talented workforce locally and create more opportunity for innovation.
"It's that incentive. It speaks not only to the kids, but to their parents and to their teachers. Good performance, good preparation will be rewarded," Proenza said.
David Petry, a senior at Firestone High School, plans to attend the University of Akron and was excited to learn about the potential scholarship, which could save his family $40,000.
"I'm looking to study the arts, so it'd be a big break to not have any student loans to pay off, because it's already kind of a hard field to get into," Petry said.
Nasia Brown, a junior at Firestone, said she would also apply. "It would mean a lot because right now it's really hard economically. It definitely makes people want to work hard."
Proenza said the 230,000-square-foot Central-Hower building could be used for several purposes, including housing the early college program and possible a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) school.